by Frederick Jordan, P.E.
Boycott, strike, work stoppage, protests and the like are normally bad words and no one wants to endure such strife, even the purveyors of such physical protests. Protesting is often an early step to objecting to unfair or inequitable treatment by a corporation or government agency.
It was no surprise to some when a few years back, the federal government released a report that cited the African American community of San Francisco as the most banking predatory community in the United States. To others, it was unbelievable, considering that San Francisco is the banking capital of the Western United States. The banks were so bad that the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce (SFAACC) had status to file with the U.S. Federal Reserve to block three bank mergers.
Tourism is the No. 1 industry in San Francisco, with a $9 billion market. It includes hotels, stadiums, cruise terminals, touring companies, restaurants, stores and many, many tourist venues. However, African Americans are only minimally included in this industry through jobs or contracting. The exclusion is bold and striking and is symptomatic of the $10 billion or more in construction projects in San Francisco that have less than one half of 1 percent to zero participation by African Americans.
In the hotels, attend a banquet and see how many African Americans serve you food? Of the 87 contractors on the new Cruise Terminal, not one is Black, prompting a statement of disappointment and an apology to the Black community from the Port of San Francisco.
Tourism is the No. 1 industry in San Francisco, with a $9 billion market. However, African Americans are only minimally included in this industry through jobs or contracting. The exclusion is bold and striking.
Construction of the $1.5 billion Transbay Terminal in San Francisco for many years had no Black contractors and finally retained one, but the work wouldn’t start for three years. Even the contractor for our beloved San Francisco 49er Stadium built 95 percent of the $700 million stadium with not one single Black contractor participating.
One is reminded that the 49er team is about 80 percent Black, winning and bringing in the revenue. Citing this as an insult, the S.F. African American Chamber joined in the United for Justice protest and 49er management quickly got its contractor to identify $25 million to go to Black contractors.
African Americans cannot live in this city and support their families while being shut out from jobs and contracting opportunities. So it follows that San Francisco’s African American population dropped from a reported 18 percent in the late ‘60s to 13.4 percent as the Redevelopment Agency began tearing down the Black Fillmore community to about 4 percent today.
It is a sad mixture of racism, gentrification, apartheid and genocide perpetrated against the Black Community. Moderates would consider it benign neglect, a prevailing form of racism in San Francisco.
So we recall the words of the great Black abolition leader Frederick Douglas: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” After years of studies, pleading, begging for jobs and contracts in our city, we are prepared to call a boycott of conventions coming to San Francisco. For Jan. 1, 2014, two national organizations of Black meeting planners, controlling 75 percent of the $40 billion Black convention and meeting industry, have been notified to stand by until our meeting with the San Francisco Travel Association and the City.
As Michael Bennett, President Obama’s appointee to the Brand USA Advisory Board, wrote in the July 2008 Black Meetings and Tourism magazine, “I would challenge those meeting planners to approach their members and ask the question, ‘Do you want us to hold our annual convention in “xyz” city when they have done nothing to earn our business?’”
We recall the words of the great Black abolition leader Frederick Douglas: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” After years of studies, pleading, begging for jobs and contracts in our city, we are prepared to call a boycott of conventions coming to San Francisco.
SFAACC, along with a coalition of other Black and concerned organizations, will present the following DEMANDS in an upcoming meeting with SF Travel, the Hotel Board and the City of San Francisco:
- PROMOTION OF BLACK BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO THE TOURISM INDUSTRY – a special initiative to promote Black businesses and organizations to the tourism industry to include a special section in the SF Travel Association brochure, stories and highlights for Black restaurants, hair salons, clothing stores etc. Specific focus should be presented on the Museum of the African Diaspora, the African American Freedom Trail Tour, the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, Marcus Book Store and other Black cultural institutions.
- CONTRACTS with the hotels, restaurants and other hospitality industries for catering, concessions, parking, limousine, janitorial, contract cleaning, printing, graphics, event planning etc. SF Travel has influence and outreach in the hospitality industry.
- CONTRACTS – The $54 million Justin Herman Cruise Ship Terminal, $1.5 billion Transbay Terminal and $700 million America’s Cup had minimal participation of African Americans. All 10 of the major construction projects, with the exception of the $1 billion Hunters Point Shipyard Redevelopment Project and the $3.4 billion San Francisco Airport Expansion, have minimal participation by Black professionals and contractors. Even in the Bayview Hunters Point Black community, it is reported that the construction of the new Willie L. Brown Jr. Middle School has no Black contractors. It is proposed that no other major public or private construction contracts that are tourism related may proceed without approval by an African American Committee under the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
- JOBS – African Americans are practically invisible at hotels with the exception of a few doormen. Hospitality venues for the most part are oblivious to diversity among their employees. Ten percent of all new hires should be from the Black community.
- ON THE JOB TRAINING PROGRAM in construction and tourism – A San Francisco ordinance requires that all professional services in the construction field must hire two trainees for each $1 million in fee. The tourism industry should adopt the same for professional services on new facilities and expansion of old facilities. Enforcement of San Francisco’s own ordinance could result in hundreds of jobs for the Black community TODAY.
- TRAINING in the hospitality industry – All hospitality programs must have a minimum of 10 percent African American participants in attendance.
- HOTEL ASSESSMENT MONIES – All monies go to SF Travel currently. We are asking for sharing a percentage with the Chamber to promote Black conferences and meetings. These monies should fully engage contracts with non-profits and other Black businesses with goals.
- HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT PROGRAM – Recruitment, selection and financial support for 10 African Americans males as is being discussed with the Hospitality Management Program at the University of San Francisco. Other programs at San Francisco State University, Golden Gate University and California Culinary University would be asked to participate.
- PUBLIC HEARING – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is to provide public hearings into the discriminatory practices and lack of representation of African Americans in the hospitality industry. Hearings are to explore why there has been little follow-up on the report of the Mayor’s African American Out-Migration Task Force published in 2009, HRC Comparative Review and Analysis of Equity and Diversity, completed in 2011 and the perennially long standing “Unfinished Agenda.” The board can establish what action it can mandate and take full responsibility for the “out-migration” of African Americans from San Francisco.
- ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – Special support for the Fillmore District and the Bayview Hunters Point District as tourism areas, emphasizing the contributions of these areas.
- REVISED VIDEOS AND ADS – Show the real diversity of SF by featuring Blacks, Hispanics, Asians. Hire Black media, film and social consultants to make updates on tourism. Post Black events in mainstream media.
- BETTER COMMUNITY OUTREACH ON OPPORTUNITIES – Post on SF Travel and City websites the private and public tourism business leads. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce voluntarily brought the African American Chamber the America’s Cup bid opportunity at the last minute. These and other “hidden” opportunities need to be brought to light so African Americans can participate in the “good old boy” network.
- HOTEL DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES – Many private hotels and restaurants are being renovated. Give Black architects, engineers and contractors the opportunity to compete for these heretofore private “who-you-know” hidden contracts.
Frederick E. Jordan, PE, president and board chairman of the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, is also president of F.E. Jordan Associates, an engineering and construction management firm that has completed over 1,000 projects throughout the Western U.S., Africa and Central America. He can be reached at email@example.com.